tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

No more excuses

OK, Sonic fanboys. You know how everyone claims that Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 is a bad game? And how so many of you claim that it isn’t really as bad as everyone says it is?

Watch and learn.

I really wish this series of videos had been around last year when I decided to play through the game for myself. I can say with 100% certainty that I experienced just about all the issues they run into (and unleash a torrent of curses at) throughout the entire game.

I recommend the Radical Train videos in particular for their unwashed display of jaw-droppingly bad game design and mechanics.


How to fix Soul Calibur IV

A long time ago, in an IRC channel far, far away:

[19:27] <@SonicTempest> at this rate to balance the number of new female 
characters in SFIV they need to add someone who's super manly
[19:27] <@SonicTempest> er SCIV
[19:27] <@SonicTempest> Guts plz
[19:28] <@xephyris> no guts
[19:28] <@xephyris> oh wait
[19:28] <@Hayate> welll theres Vader and Yoda :p
[19:28] <@xephyris> the berserk guy hasn't been put in yet huh
[19:28] <@xephyris> yeah ok guts plz
[19:28] <@xephyris> you know
[19:28] <@xephyris> get the fist of the north star guy in plz
[19:28] <@SonicTempest> ww
[19:28] <@SonicTempest> Kenshiro or Raoh w
[19:29] <@xephyris> how about both w
[19:29] <@xephyris> ps3 gets kenshiro
[19:29] <@xephyris> to balance out vader
[19:29] <@xephyris> and xbox gets raoh
[19:29] <@Hayate> no theyd be broken tier
[19:29] <@xephyris> while we're at it let's put Jojo in too
[19:29] <@xephyris> the only game where you can wrrrryyyy for real
[19:30] <@SonicTempest> www
[19:30] <@xephyris> wow man
[19:30] <@xephyris> if it had guts, jojo, and kenshiro
[19:31] <@xephyris> it'd be the manliest game on the planet

You heard it here first!


Yahtzee, free publicist

Yesterday’s Zero Punctuation featured Painkiller, a first-person shooter from 2004 that somehow flew under my radar. He seemed highly appreciative of the fact that it was an FPS cut from the same mold as Doom, Doom II and Serious Sam, with the shooting action being its primary focus. It certainly sounded appealing to me, so I made a note to check it out at some point.

Today, I logged onto the Steam website and beheld the following:

Well, I guess that’s a far better endorsement than anything the major gaming websites could dream up :D


Riddle me this

A few of the guys in my team have a fairly regular ritual of going to the espresso bar on the first floor to swap anecdotes and design/programming problems over coffee (or any similarly delicious beverage). At today’s session, a co-worker and friend of mine raised an interesting programming problem that had been posed to him by another person, and I thought it was interesting enough to reproduce here. Give it a shot if you feel so inclined :)

The goal is to write a function in C that, given a null-terminated string, prints it in reverse (You don’t have to return the reversed string – just print it). However, there are a few restrictions:

  1. You can’t create any local variables (apart from function arguments)
  2. The only library function you can use is printf()
  3. You can’t use any other language constructs (no if…else, no loops of any kind, no goto, etc)
  4. Any subroutines you create must also abide by rules 1, 2 and 3

This is apparently entirely possible. My C is rusty at best, but I’ll be giving it a shot on my newly-formatted Linux laptop (which I have christened ‘Potato’ for some bizarre reason).

A hint that may or may not be useful: think about what printf() returns.

On a side note, my friend’s suggested solution was pretty hilarious; he suggested using a format-string exploit in printf() to point the instruction pointer at an arbitrary location in memory, which he would have filled up at an earlier point with assembly instructions (again using printf()). The assembly code then prints the string in reverse with no regard to the rules (since it isn’t technically C). He hadn’t gotten it to work, but I’m pretty sure that it would, given enough time.

Said friend is leaving Amazon to work for Microsoft in a few weeks, by the way, which makes me wonder what sort of software he might write there.

On an even more hilarious note, as a result of the above ‘solution’, the discussion quickly turned into one about whether or not C’s printf() function is in fact Turing-complete.

EDIT 2008/05/21, 2045 PDT: Solved it! Although the basic idea for the solution came frome one of my teammates…

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My Neighbour Beast

Remember that X-men manga I blogged about a while back? The one that was trying to do a weird shoujo version of X-men with the institute being an all-boys school?

Pictures have surfaced.

Many lulz were had.

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I r l33t h4x0r

As you might have guessed from the title, this is another geekspeak-heavy post. I’ll try and make it digestible for the less technically inclined, as usual :p

This past week I took part in a course at work, meant to help Amazon employees understand Amazon Web Services (Click here if you don't know what those are). They’re basically a bunch of services that we vend to software developers to use in building applications. Examples of this are the Simple Storage Service (or S3) which is a simple data store which charges users based on how much space they use. There’s also the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which is a service that lets developers purchase computing time to perform tasks that they can’t do with the resources that they already have (like, say, running complex operations on data sets). In any case, as part of the course, we had to build something using the services that we sell, without access to the internal tools that make our lives easier.

I teamed up with a friend from my team, and we set to work building a system that would allow people to search for MP3 downloads on the Amazon.com MP3 store (shameless plug!) using the lyrics from the song instead of the title or artist name. We did get it working successfully (about half an hour before the deadline), and presented it to the entire class. At the end an award was given out for the best project.

We didn’t win, but it didn’t bother me that much, mainly because of something else I found out from one of the facilitators of the course. Apparently, while testing our code over the weekend, we generated so much traffic to one of the services that the engineer who was on call for the service that week got paged, and had to figure out who or what was creating so many requests to the service.

So, we didn’t win, but we did cause some poor guy to get paged over the weekend.

Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter. :D

I’m looking at following and ’s lead and ditching LiveJournal for my own webspace. Not so much because I disagree with their policies, but because I want a lot more control over what I can do with what has essentially become my little corner of the Internet. Does anyone know of any good hosting services? I’m looking at running either WordPress or a Ruby-based content management system called Typo (because Ruby is one of my favourite programming languages). The idea behind running the latter is that I can modify the code if I feel like I need to (I don’t know PHP).

So, any suggestions/recommendations?

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